Welcome to Mali 2015
Some amazing statistics about Mali: with a population of over 16 million and a growth rate of 3%, which is one of the highest in the world, there will be 500,000 more children in Mali next year. Nearly half of all the people in Mali are under 15. The average life expectancy is 55.
Impressions of Mali: Red dirt and charcoal smoke. Smooth, well-paved roads throughout Bamako and out to Ouéléssébougou, then rutted dirt track out to Dagabo village. Cars, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians tangling themselves together through the streets. Kids selling bags of water at street corners. Women in gorgeous, bright-colored dresses with matching head-wraps. Roadside stands offering everything from tomatoes to bicycle tires. Thatched roof huts in circular compounds, long expanses of dirt with makeshift wooden goals marking soccer fields. Hundreds of mango trees dripping with fruit, wide Shea trees, jacaranda and flamboyant trees in full flower. Much more greenery than we usually see in January, but smoggy skies – not the amazing deep blackness full of stars that we’re used to seeing – since it hasn’t rained since last fall. Relentless 108 degree heat. Beautiful Malian smiles.
Our first night together, after the craziness of the airport and missing bags – but welcoming smiles and hugs from Ibrahima, our long time local coordinator and translator, Koro, translator and local representative for our partners The Siraba School Village, and Boi Doumbia, former Medical Missions Foundation patient and mission mascot – we went for pizza (an Medical Missions Foundation tradition) at an open air restaurant, then on to our lovely little Bamako hotel. Next morning after breakfast we piled in vans with Koro, Boi, and Ibrahima, and drove out to Dr. Oumar Bagayoko’s “Clinique Paix” – Peace Clinic in Ouéléssébougou. We met old friends – doctors, nurses, staff, translators – dropped off supplies, set up equipment, and then drove out to Boi’s village of Dagabo, where The Siraba School Village had arranged for us to run an STD clinic for adults in the village.
After reconnecting with many friends in Dagabo, we crossed the soccer field to the Siraba School, where we set up a brief screening, separate clinics for women and men, encouraging/demanding that each person also bring their husband or wives. With Koro and Ibrahim Kanté as translators, we were able to screen, educate, and provide medication to over 120 people.
That night after a dinner cooked by Boi’s mom, Nassira, the men of the village and our team sat outside the compound’s wall so that Dr. Tammy with RNs Kay and Cassie could host an informal chat with the village women, answering questions on everything from infant care to breastmilk to healthy pregnancy to ulcers. Having Koro, a Malian woman, as a translator has enormously increased our ability to connect directly to women in Mali, and the relationships and trust we’ve built over the years brings a deeper level of connection and help that we can provide.
Most of our team left early the next morning to begin screening patients and preparing for surgery at Dr. Oumar’s. Dr. Tammy stayed until mid-day to witness the new Siraba School lunch program, and then Ibrahim Kanté drove her back to start surgery, while Abby, Sophie, and Koro stayed another day to conduct more business for The Siraba School Village.